“There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving. . .”
“Stairway to Heaven”
In a recent blog, I wrote about my feelings of deep distress over the prospect of war in Syria and the subsequent signs I was given that brought me to a state of peace about the whole affair. If the healing path and my studies of the Medicine Wheel have taught me anything, it’s that there are larger forces at play in the physical world; and that those forces will readily communicate with us if we simply open ourselves up and allow it to happen.
Quite often, the messages are anything but subtle, and shake us to the very core of our being. Other times they bring with them a quiet sense of assurance. Laid out before us like the tracks of some illusive animal, they provide a trail for us to follow through the confusion and uncertainty of life. One learns to watch for these signs – not to force them, or assemble them out of unrelated events – but to notice them as they appear; and to act upon them with gratitude and resolution.
I’ll set the stage for this blog by saying that I did not watch President Obama’s speech as it happened the other night. I planned, instead, to watch it online in the morning. As I came downstairs, I was greeted by a news blurb stating that he’d decided, albeit half-heartedly, to back off temporarily in favor of diplomacy, stating that Russian President Vladimir Putin had proposed a plan calling for the Syrian government to hand over its stockpile of chemical weapons. I’ll admit that although I felt a great relief upon hearing this news, a small part of me couldn’t help but wonder what Putin was hiding. Surely, as those responsible for the online alternative news sites I frequent would admit, there must be something buried beneath this gesture.
I dismissed this flash of cynicism, and decided for once to accept things at face value. Russia and America, whose recent relationship could be described as chilly at best, were sitting down together and discussing peaceful alternatives in the Middle East – something millions of people worldwide had been crying out for.
As I kissed my wife at the door and stepped out onto the front porch I was greeted by the raucous cawing of a crow perched atop my next door neighbor’s chimney. As quickly as I noticed them, his cries faded into silence, only to be replaced by the honking of a flock of geese breaking the tree line north of the house and zooming southwards, directly over my head towards the chimney and the now silent crow. It was a flock of perhaps twenty or so, each shouting its own message; and yet I was aware of some concerted effort in the sound. As the garrulous noise and snapping of wings receded, I knew that I had been given another sign.
Crow has somewhat of a reputation for being a trickster. This makes him, in a sense, a feathered cousin of Coyote. He is often portrayed as a liar and a thief; and yet, as Ted Andrews tells us in his wonderfully insightful book Animal Speak, Crow’s imperative squawking marks him as a messenger, reminding us “to look for opportunities to create and manifest the magic of life.” (Andrews, 1996) A jet black presence loudly announcing himself from the height of his Southern perch, Grandfather Crow was shouting at me about the darker things afoot in the world. His griping was a litany of conflict, aggression, fear, and opposition; all of the negative aspects of the South. And yet, he was also reminding me about the fact that these things can change.
When the flock of geese appeared I was reminded of a discussion I had with an Elder who gifted me with a couple of goose feathers for holding a pipe ceremony at his Medicine Wheel. He taught me that regardless of the number of geese in a flock, or how many of them were simultaneously honking, one could still recognize the individual calls of each goose. We also talked about how if one goose drops out of formation due to sickness or exhaustion, another leaves the flock and travels with it, staying with it until the point of death or recovery. Then one or both resume their journey until they return to their original flock.
Goose, then, was showing me that the voices of millions crying out in unison against military action had been heard. In that moment, the call for opposition had been silenced.
And who, more appropriately to lead us out of conflict and into potential resolution than Mother Bear herself, through the agency of a man whose nation is represented by that very animal. Bear sits in the direction of the West, the place of sacred work, of the coming together of opposites, and of rising up on our own two legs and, after a time of descent into the darkest places of our own souls, walking forward into the light of a brand new day.
It may seem to some a bit naive to take this view of so a critical situation. But regardless of personal or national agendas, the missiles would not launch. The messengers of that morning spoke of a greater potential, set the vision of a healing path before us, and dared us to walk it for the greater good of All. . .